Mid-season review: Williams mired in middle

Mid-season review: Williams mired in middle

11 August 2017 – GPUpdate.net continues its mid-season review series with Williams, which has been firmly entrenched in the midfield, having coaxed Felipe Massa out of a short-lived retirement to partner rookie Lance Stroll.

Williams: 6/10
Championship: 5th
WCC points: 41
Best result: 3rd (1 x STR)
Best qualifying: 6th (2 x MAS)
Fastest laps: 0
Qualifying duel: MAS 9 – 1 STR, STR 1 – 0 DIR


Williams' season has been much of a muchness. The FW40 is an average car, slightly inconsistent, and being piloted by a driver who was unwanted last September, and a rookie whose Formula 1 graduation has perhaps come too early in his career. The glory days of 2014, when Williams had a rocket ship, are long gone; this has been a tough season, albeit saved by a glorious podium in Azerbaijan. Williams began the year regularly fronting the midfield but rivals have edged clear and, Baku aside, has not challenged for the top eight since April. The use of a Mercedes engine remains Williams' strength, with the squad unable to maintain its aerodynamic efficiency of previous seasons, a predicament which has accentuated matters at venues such as Monaco and Hungary. Williams has at least recruited Paddy Lowe from Mercedes, but under current regulations, and without a financial injection, it is difficult to envisage how Williams can break back into the lead group. Williams must surely be wary of slipping even further back in the near future.

Felipe Massa: 6.5/10
Championship: 11th
WDC points: 23
Best R result: 6th (2x)
Best Q result: 6th (2x)


Two-and-a-half months after everyone wished Massa farewell beneath the lights in Abu Dhabi, he was strapping himself into Williams' new car to embark on his 15th season, such is the way of Formula 1. Massa was revitalised by faster cars, feeling that the approach required was more suitable to his style of driving. He bagged results early on, but Williams has since slipped back, while the Brazilian has lost a hatful of strong finishes through misfortune. In Russia sixth became ninth due to a slow puncture, in Spain he was caught up in Turn 1 shenanigans – and felt fourth was possible – was eliminated at the start in Canada by Carlos Sainz Jr., and in Azerbaijan a suspension failure robbed him of an easy podium finish. Add in those points and Massa would be in and around the Force India drivers, rather than just a few points clear of his young team-mate. It has hardly been a fantastic campaign for Massa – and it is difficult to envisage what more he can accomplish in the sport – but at least he is enjoying himself. Hungary stand-in Paul di Resta acquitted himself well considering his total lack of experience in the FW40.

Lance Stroll: 5/10
Championship: 12th
WDC points: 18
Best R result: 3rd (1x)
Best Q result: 8th (1x)


Stroll entered Formula 1 as the second-youngest driver in history and was keen to stress that he faced an uphill challenge. His words certainly rang true during the early stages as he struggled across one-lap, was lacking in race pace – and tyre management – and was also unfortunate regarding incidents, suffering three successive retirements before a clumsy first-lap spin in Russia. His dismal Spain showing was a low point, while Monaco was always going to be a baptism of fire, but in the face of repeated criticism he bounced back with an accomplished display on home soil in Canada to capture his maiden points. The post-race adulation was a tad excessive, though he built on the performance with a fine showing in Baku. His podium was the surprise result of the campaign, but while he was in receipt of fortune, he had firstly put himself in that spot with strong pace all weekend, and then kept cool when others would have cracked. Overall, for a rookie, and for his age, Stroll's season has been good, but not great; time will tell if Stroll has what it takes.

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